THE construction of luxury holiday home The Ridge Nelson Bay got off to a rocky start when excavator met granite on the elevated Port Stephens site.
The encounter necessitated a design rethink to accommodate the igneous rock shelf, with the resulting $4million-plus residence earning broad building industry praise for innovation and execution.
The Ridge was designed and built by Greenbuild Constructions for a Sydney family who wanted a luxury escape that would also be available for the public to book. Its guests are indeed in a privileged position. The seven-bedroom, four-bathroom, three-level property is built into a ridge 120 metres above sea level, with uninterrupted views of Tomaree and Yacaaba headlands. It is in Nelson Ridge Estate, a cul de sac of 23 blocks that slope away from the road and have a bush buffer.
The Ridge is also the current Hunter custom-built house of the year, as voted by both the Housing Industry Association (HIA) and Master Builders Association (MBA). The accolades recognise the complexity of the carefully engineered project and Greenbuild's flexibility and skill.
Greenbuild director Kain Bliss says the 18-month build presented many challenges.
"The first real challenge was when we commenced excavation and hit a dense, granite rock shelf, which prevented us from building the original design by another company," Kain says.
"It was the catalyst for us to propose a full redesign, which was exciting and fun because our clients trusted us to deliver a design that pushed the boundaries of architecture in a lot of ways.
"We designed complex elements like burnished concrete floors throughout, which may not sound very complex, but when you need to achieve floor levels to the millimetre in every room of the home, there is no forgiveness of any errors during the pour process.
"The set-up and execution had to be perfect."
The HIA and MBA judges were impressed with the property's curved, off-form concrete features, including external stairs, the balcony and cantilevered pool.
They are among Kain's favourite design elements of The Ridge and required thorough preparation.
"These large, off-form concrete elements were suspended so high above the ground levels that it meant having multiple staging of scaffolding and formwork, and there were additional challenges in designing a large, curved roof without a definitive support element," he explains.
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The owners say it was "exhilarating" to watch the project proceed from concept to completion, and the result exceeded their expectations.
"Our goal was to create a functional, private and beautiful home that would meet the needs of a multi-generation family while also being a lasting investment," they say.
"Our excitement grew as the build progressed and came to life - each stage was a new revelation." The "crowning jewel" was the nine-seat Dolby Atmos home cinema.
The owners use the property on birthdays or when they would like "downtime from our everyday lives" and insist they are not nervous about sharing it with the public.
"It was purpose-built to bring people together," they say.
The Ridge has three living areas, three outdoor entertaining areas, a large gourmet kitchen and "secret" butler's pantry.
Its minimalist, industrial style and separate spaces invite comparisons to a high-end hotel experience.
At its awards event late last year, the HIA said: "The stunning street frontage of curved masonry and rich, timber battens only hints at what the property conceals."
The "moody interior palette" included: burnished concrete floors, replicated in the kitchen benchtops; dark fixtures; and walnut timber panelling. Peekaboo skylights and a deep central void were "impeccable and unexpected" details.
A gallery of photographs and videos on the property's website theridgenelsonbay.com.au documents the building process and demonstrate how Greenbuild negotiated the tricky site.
Kain says the end product was well worth the challenges and effort.
"For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of The Ridge project would be that journey from the main entry through to the outside, upper balcony, where you can enjoy the incredible outlook over the Port Stephens headlands and Nelson Bay."
The Ridge, it seems, is a place where those present - from its builders in high-vis and hard hats to its owners and guests - feel on top of the world.
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